Sustainability is about people, planet, and profit. I’ve spent much time recently pondering about the environment and our economic outlook; I’ve avoided talking about justice beyond the mere environmental impacts on the poor.
I avoided the topic because I still don’t understand it well. I am deeply troubled by what I consider as inconsistencies in the western philosophical base about human rights in general. Metaphysically I am cautious about the fundamental basis of human rights in a pure western sense. I’ve spent a lot of time studying western philosophy trying to understand this point, but perhaps in pursuit of this process I’ve lost track of my Chinese hardwired brain.
Lauren tells me that a child’s brain is hardwired around the age of eight. I came to the States when I was twelve and I am just now discovering the beauty of that “initial programming.” I tend to notice the more subtle areas of metaphysics and tend to be more sensitive to ontological reasoning that came form the likes of Zeno. I fought hard against these intuitions in college and my philosophical inquiry days, but now I know better than to fights it – I accept them as they come to my rescue.
It seems obvious now that my Confucius infused Taoist worldview makes me susceptible to think differently about the law. This makes law school both fun and challenging: fun in the sense I get crazy ideas and can see the connections others have trouble with; challenging in the sense that I just can’t seem to grasp some of the ideas deeply rooted in the western tradition.
The topic of Human Rights is one of these and constitutional law also presents problems; yet I love a challenge.
Through learning about the law in the western philosophical tradition, I come to appreciate the freedom I enjoy in things like writing a blog, pursuing learning whatever I want, trying to do whatever I deem beneficial to society. If I feel I must write to help change the world then I must write. In China, if I must write to help change China for the better I cannot. I value my place here in the States, and I long for the day when China will respect intellectual pursuits in light of personal liberty as the west would. Until then, I am bound to the studies of this tradition and I must make the best of its approaches to reconcile with my hardwired brain.
I therefore accept the first generation of Human Rights that each of us inherently posse the rights to Life, Liberty, and Serenity and Happiness, on the condition that we enjoy these rights in relation to another and our communities. We should be free from discrimination, involuntary servitude, cruelty; free from government interference without due process. This is the American in me and I’m finally learning the complexity of Life, Liberty, and Happiness in school!
I also accept the second generation of Human Rights that government interference is necessary where equitable participation and distribution is involved. Diversity is a positive thing; inherently tolerating differences contribute to the spirit of innovation and progress; but I must put my emphasis on the third principle of Human Rights – innovation and progress must be regionalized and Solidarity respected.
Solidarity is a loaded term, typically used to argue that developing countries are now entitled to exploit the environment, the people, and thus maximizing their profits. Their contention is that if colonial period allowed the west to exploit them in the early days, then they should be allowed to exploit until tomorrow. But two wrongs does not make it a right, arguing that it’s their turn is overlooking the totality of the context and progress. China is making this argument to content with their environmental impacts up until now, but it has recently changed course since it recognized it can no longer burden the crash-and-burn race to the bottom mentality. Now the only residual of this solidarity argument resides with the human rights issues. Other developing countries and continents (Africa, Southeast Asia) also rally around this point.
But I get the feeling that the issue is much deeper than just the “you’ve done it and now it’s my turn.” China is entrenched with a relational metaphysics where the individual is defined by the social system; parts of Africa also retain similar ontology. This is perhaps at the deep end of our Solidarity problem: inherently how we relate to each other is how we shall define “human rights.” We would not have rights without the need to interrelate with one another, so rights in a strict logical sense is depended on the interrelatedness of our people, our communities, our nation states – to comprise of a whole planet earth.
This is where I start with my inquiry into Human Rights within the context of Sustainability. We shall see where I end up.
On a side note, ADD diversion alert, Zeno’s paradox goes something like this:
You have to get to the wall from where you are standing; but before you get there you must arrive at the half-way point (Aristotle).
You will never get there.
Think with me, if you only have ten feet left to travel, you have to travel five first; to travel five, you have to travel two-and-half; to travel two-and-half, you have to travel one-and-a-quarter; so on and so forth. You will never get there because you would’ve never started. Logically this work in reverse as well, so you will never get there.
But the thing to do to over come that paradox is to take the initiative, the first act if you will, to get to the wall. But then we are faced with the original act question that directly hinges on the concept and defense of GOD. I won’t go that far just yet.
Isn’t philosophy and metaphysics grand!?